CHICAGO – Conrad Black’s lawyers have filed a motion asking to have his remaining convictions dismissed on the basis that prosecutors “intentionally deprived” the former media baron of his right to an attorney.
The request, filed Monday in a U.S. district court in Chicago, centres around law enforcement’s seizure of proceeds from the sale of his New York apartment, which Black purchased from his company Hollinger in 2000 for US$3 million and later sold for US$9 million.
Black’s lawyers argue that prosecutors deceived the court to obtain two warrants to seize the assets by concealing information that would have undermined their case for taking the money.
The former press magnate sold the Manhattan dwelling for $9 million, with the intent of paying for counsel to defend him against allegations of improper conduct at Hollinger International. Because the money from the sale wasn’t available to Black, his lawyers argue that denied him his right to counsel.
“Conrad Black was intentionally deprived of his right to the counsel of his choice by knowing of false statements made to the courts by the government as to its right to seize property,” lawyer William Kane argues in the filings.
“The deceptive affidavit in support of the pre-indictment seizures of Mr. Black’s assets spun a tale of fraud surrounding the purchase and transfer of the Manhattan apartment by and between Mr. Black and his company as a basis for seizing the apartment proceeds.”
The filing accuses prosecutors of leaving out two key documents that contradicted their claims that Black defrauded Hollinger in setting a purchase price of $3 million for the apartment, the same amount Hollinger had paid for it initially, even though it had appreciated in value.
Carolyn Gurland, one of Black’s lawyers, said in an interview Monday the government knew that Black had put US$4.6 million of his own money into the apartment, thereby raising his investment in the apartment to $7.6 million, but didn’t include documents that reflected that.
“The very documents that they used and did not attach to the documents they filed to the court to seize his assets contained the very information that made it clear he wasn’t guilty of anything,” she said.
“It’s not like they didn’t have the documents, they had them they just chose not to attach them . .. and they chose to quote what they wanted to from them and it’s a real problem.”
Black, who was released from prison last month, would be cleared of two remaining fraud counts if his lawyers’ request is successful. The request will be heard by Illinois Justice Amy St. Eve, the same judge who presided over Black’s initial fraud charges.
His lawyers say charges related to the Manhattan apartment had no foundation and were filed to keep Black from his right to an attorney. They add that the violation of Black’s rights cannot be overlooked because the government’s action does not fall into one of the limited number of reasons it can legally deprive an accused person of their right to a lawyer.
They say the result “infected” Black’s trial, which means the remaining convictions against him should be dismissed.
“Mr. Black comes before this tribunal one more time to ask for redress of what was a major constitutional violation born of the overreaching of certain members of the prosecution team,” it said.
The filing states that while it is too late to “turn back the clock” and allow Black access to his chosen lawyers, but not too late to overturn his convictions.
That would allow Black to defend himself against an ongoing legal battle with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and allow him to return to the U.S.